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Remodeling of industrial buildings (Thesis 2001/2002)

By : Chong Lai Ho

In recent decades, Hong Kong’s economy shifted from manufacturing to finance, transportation and services. As a result, existing factory buildings decreased in real estate value. This thesis attempts to remodel a 10-story high, structurally sound, but partially vacant and underused industrial building. The total floor area is approximately 137,500 square meters.
The objectives of the remodeling are to maintain the economic value of the existing building, motivate cultural activity in Hong Kong, and conserve embodied energy and resources within the building itself. A mixture of programs, including museum, housing, offices, shopping arcades, small community areas, etc., is inserted into the existing structure. A Land Transportation Museum atop the structure will be the neighborhood’s tourist focus attracting the visitors from the city.
Major remodeling strategies:
1. Insertion of more vertical circulation systems, escalators, lifts and staircases into the building;
2. Enlargement of light wells remaining in the structure, which improve natural lighting and ventilation;
3. Gradual replacement of 80% of all non-structural walls according to changing of programs;
4. Addition of cantilever structures, such as balcony of housing and the extension of the museum façade;
5. Addition of a tensile structure to shade the museum and at same time providing lighting to courtyards;
6. Demolition of one structural bay for the museum entrance lobby; and 7. Installation of external screens and louver systems for the façade, the latter of which 50% remains unchanged.
Remodeling sequence
1. Subtraction of part of the floor slab with addition of reinforcement
2. Completion of escalators, stairs, railings, etc.
3. Addition of cantilever beams to support the extended floor slab for the museum
4. Construction of museum entrance tower
5. Construction of structural frame to support the tensile structure
6. Removal of façade
7. Addition of louver and glass system as the external façade of the new buildings
8. Step by step demolition a/o remodeling of partition walls
Major programmes
Communal spaces (29,500 sq. m.): Communal spaces and shops are located on the lower three floors, served by escalators. Shops inside the buildings are located along internal passages, which are treated as an extension of adjacent streets.
Museum (24,500 sq. m.): An additional tower at the gap between the buildings serves as the entrance to museum, which located on the top floors. It also provides a landmark to the industrial site, aiming to attract visitors. It supports a permanent rooftop crane which can be used for re-construction of the building from time to time.
Housing (125 flats, 40,000 sq m.): Housing units are composed of different module units to allow flexibility of use. The partition walls are removable or even operable to form different units and functional zoning within units. Users can choose functional layouts according to their own needs.
Office (43,500 sq. m.): Office space is composed of several layers, i.e. meeting & waiting zone, storage & circulation zone, working zone and resting zone. The working zone is divided into different cubicles forming different arrangement of working units.

Tutor’s comments
In this school, thesis projects will be presented three times to jury members before completion. I remember one of members, a former architect, criticized this project three times for structural and economic feasibility to do the remodeling, ignoring an engineering consultant and the student who had investigated and already justified the feasibility. The discussion was significant, because it revealed how important, and how difficulty it is, to change a mind by open an simple fact that the capacity of building structure could be much larger than that in traditional perspective, and that changing a building is more economical than keeping it as a monumental.

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